Monday, February 13, 2017

Birthright Israel offers free life-challenging trips to Israel to young Jewish adults (ages of 18 to 26) around the world. Their mission is to give these young adults, especially the unaffiliated, the opportunity to visit Israel. Birthright Israel is the largest educational tourism organization in the world.   []

Last December, my 3rd child, Jonathon, was given the opportunity to be experience and discover Israel in 11 days through the Birthright program.

He was the first one in our family to visit Israel.  Together with his grandparents, my husband and I were excited to get his daily updates. We couldn’t wait to see the photographs from his trip, and hear his stories.

On the first day, he walked through the streets of Jerusalem.  We asked him to say prayer at the Wailing Wall.  He celebrated Shabbat with friends new and old.

The trip included a visit to Rabin Square, the plaza where Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, and lectures about the peace process and various social justice and human rights issues; Independence Hall, where the state of Israel was declared; Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum and memorial; Beit Guvrin, a national park in central Israel; and a jeep ride in the Northern Israel near the border of Syria.

My son and his peers rode camels, hiked up Masada, floated in the Dead Sea, and walked through the desert under the stars.

His experience made us want to visit Israel, as soon as feasible.

I asked my son to share his thoughts about the trip and this is what he wrote,

This past winter break, in my final year of college, I decided to go to Israel as a part of a Columbia University Birthright trip.  It was an incredible opportunity to connect with my Jewish ancestry and learn about a part of the world whose history is rich with thousands of years of conflict, cultural change and religious significance.  As a very nominal Jew, the word Birthright was somewhat problematic for me - after all, what claim to that land could someone like me have?  That's why I prefer the alternative name, "Taglit," which translated from Hebrew means "discovery."

Traveling to Israel was a fascinating and challenging process of discovery through which I learned about my own Jewish identity as well as the role of the land itself in shaping that identity.  I am sure that it will continue to be an experience I think pensively on for years to come, and fortunately I can do so with a number of good, newfound friends.

Enjoy some of the pictures he took from his trip. 

To the Birthright Israel, thank you.

Photos taken with an iPhone 5.

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